Getting Certified

By: Will Nunez

After going through American Mountain Guides Associations Single Pitch Instructor course and exam in 2012 I became hooked on mountain guiding and pursuing a life style of becoming fully licensed guide. Since then I have often asked my self, what is it going to take to become mountain guide and what are my long-term goals to become a certified American Mountain Guide? With those questions in mind I went forth and recently completed the AMGA ten-day rock guide course. I have noticed a new confidence in what it’s going to take to complete these personal and professional goals. Here is a reflection of my experience during the course. 

Will Nunez leading the Couinard’s Crack to meet up with Moscow route 
Photo By Geoff Unger

Danny Ozman demonstating great guide Postiting at the crux move on the last pitch of Voyage of the Cowdog 
Photo By Geoff Unger 

This past fall I was I was stoked to represent Irwin Guides while taking the Rock Guides course in Smith Rock, Oregon. The Rock Guide Course is the first step in the AMGA rock track program. The course gives candidates an introduction to the rock guide discipline and is recognized as the leading rock training standard worldwide. 

Spending ten days high above the Cook River climbing routes in Smith Rock State Park was amazing. The park is primarily known for its premier sport climbing routes, yet also offers splitter basalt crack climbing in the inner gorges and longer traditional routes spread throughout the park. This wide range of climbing styles gave the candidates an eye into guiding each climbing style. The terrain in the park gave the candidates lots of practice instructing and guiding there piers through vary of multi pitch climbs that involved several belay transitions, belay/rappel station management, and short roping clients while moving through 4th and 5th class exposed terrain. Some of the routes guided on the course where Zebra Zion 5.10a, Packman 5.10b, Chouinards Crack 5.9, Wherever I May Rome 5.9, Solar Slab 5.6 and Moscow 5.6. Other core topics covered were, Risk Management, Technical Systems, Rescue Systems, Professionalism and Client Care. As the course progressed several guiding methods where introduced during class and field based session, such as the 45min rock rescue drill, 5min knot pass (which are both examined during advanced level courses), managing clients while short roping in exposed terrain, and guide security. We also held a guides meeting ever morning discussing and going over are the risk management for the day and how we where going to conduct a professional level guided experience, by going over each routes that was selected to be guided that day. 

Danny Ozman out on the second traverse pitch on Wherever I May Rome 
Photo By Will Nunez 

Climbing in the Shade got cold, belaying up Geoff Unger 
Photo By Will Nunez

RGC candidate managing a rappel station 
Photo By Geoff Unger 

The course did not lack in excellent instruction. AMGA team instructor’s members Erik Leidecker and Geoff Unger put out exceptional mentorship and professional instruction throughout the ten days. I was impressed by the instructor’s ability to accommodate each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses with constructive feedback. With in each instructor’s leaderships and professional styles, I was able to draw different parts into my guiding style. From this I quickly realized that mastering the soft skills is a huge part being a well-rounded professional guide and being humble about your certification is truly a grand characteristic of a certified guide. The instructors modeled this through out the course. 

Instructor Geoff Unger showing RGC candidates proper short ropping technique 
Photo By Will Nunez 

Instructor Geoff Unger demonstrating rope-handling techniques 
Photo By Will Nunez 

This course helped me gained a multitude of knowledge and skills to put forth into my own professional guiding career at Irwin Guides. I would like to the thanks the AMGA, it represents and encompasses what certified guide are valued by. It gives guides an institution at which the mountain guiding trade can be practiced, and is recognized not only in the USA but also worldwide. I have a new respect for the life style and commitment other guide have gone through during their pursuit to become certified. I look forward to continuing down the AMGA path and will take the Advanced Rock Guide Course/Aspirant Exam when I complete the prerequisites. If you would like to learn more about becoming certified, a great start would be, by taking the AMAG Single Pitch Instructor Course. For me this is where it all started. It has made me more confident in my professional guiding career and has opened up many more guiding opportunities. If you have any questions about Single Pitch Instructor course please contact Irwin Guides. 

Click here, to learn more about AMGA Mountain Guide Programs

-Irwin Guides 

Filed under: Field Report

Learn About Irwin Guides Single Pitch Instructor Course

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